With Nepal’s monsoon climate, water storage can help shift water to the dry season. However, rural Nepali households are choosing livelihood strategies in response to multiple pressures, of which drought is only one. We develop an agent based model that demonstrates interactions between village cooperative spirit, migration and water storage. The model forms the foundation of a role-playing tournament, where a set of development and irrigation experts compete to best support six model villages through a drought scenario. Participants were very engaged with the tournament. However, some model simplifications were highlighted as challenging participants own knowledge. While engagement was high, most felt that the exercise would be best undertaken ‘closer to the ground’ with people who control policy levers like those included in the model. Combining agent based modeling with a role playing tournament provides a powerful tool for engaging those managing social-ecological systems with the complex interactions embedded within these systems.